Anchoring 101

Discussion in 'Catfishing Library' started by tkishkape, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. tkishkape

    tkishkape New Member

    Gore, Okla

    I saw a couple of fellows down on the river in serious need of an anchor. They were effectively using a cinderblock tied onto 25 feet of 1/2" rope to arrest their boat's movement. It did, however, seem like they were expending a lot of energy picking up that cinderblock and splashing it down again just to move a few hundred feet.

    That scene ran through my mind several times, reminding me of the training received while I was in Uncle Sam's Canoe Club (US Navy) back in the '70's. I was inspired to research and write a simple anchoring guide for use by fishermen.

    Welcome to Anchoring For Small Craft 101

    Since the ancient Phoenicians use of large flat rocks with holes hewn in them for a rope, there have been as many improvements in anchoring techniques as in anchors. We'll not dwell too much on history here. Suffice it to say that it's gonna get a lot more technical from here out.

    There are several types of readily available anchors in use for small craft (and I mean fishing boats to 26 feet). There is the Navy style anchor, the Danforth type, the mushroom type, the plow, the mechanical type and the impromptu type that gets cobbled together in the garage.

    The Navy Anchor

    The Navy Style anchor is usually of heavy cast iron construction with movable flukes which holds primarily due to its sheer weight. This anchor is best used in a sand or gravel bottom. It will sink continuously in a silt bottom or be hopelessly lost in a chunk rock bottom. The Navy anchor is a real pain to raise or lower from a small craft unless there is a power winch involved. If the craft has no power winch, stay away from a Navy style anchor.

    The Danforth Anchor

    The Danforth type anchor was developed as a light weight anchor capable of holding a much larger craft than a similar Navy style anchor of equal weight. The secret was in using leverage instead of weight. Using thinner sheet-metal flukes welded to a pivoting axle passing through a long iron lever, the Danforth was able to hold in soft bottoms without sinking. The flukes are drawn down into the soft bottom by pressure from the boat above, but to insure that the pressure would cause the flukes to dig in instead of out, the angle of pressure has to be nearly horizontal.

    The only way for that to happen is to attach a length of chain and use enough anchor line to create an angle less than 25 degrees between the anchor line and the water surface. This angle ratio is called "scope". In general, if the water is 10 feet deep, a 40 foot length of line will hold the boat in calm water. That's a 1:4 ratio. In moving water or in the wind, increase the scope to a ratio of 1:7 or more.

    The better anchors have a sliding link in the lever which will allow the stuck anchor to be withdrawn simply by running the boat over the anchor and pulling it out in the opposite direction. The link will slide toward the fluke end and will apply pressure directly to the pivoting axle and withdraw the flukes. I will not own or use an anchor that does not possess this feature. The only other solution for a stuck anchor is a sharp knife.

    The Mushroom Anchor

    The mushroom anchor is a great little piece of engineering. It will sink straight down in a vertical position and will land on the bottom that way. It holds generally due to its weight and its ability to tip and dig in a little into mud sand or silt bottoms.

    This anchor is not recommended for rock bottoms or fast current/high wind conditions. It does become a pain in the back if it is lifted and redeployed several times in an afternoon. I recommend this anchor only in shallow still water less than 10 feet deep on a small windless pond, and it should never be the only anchor on a boat.

    The Mechanical Anchor

    The mechanical (claw) anchor has its place here simply because these expensive anchors really work and work well in various applications. What sets most of them apart from the rest of the herd is that with a hard jerk in the anchor line, the anchor flukes are released to rotate freely and allow the anchor to be easily withdrawn from whatever bottom it has encountered. They are guaranteed not to release under strain conditions, but will readily release when the operator wants them to. Pretty cool, huh? Just wish they didn't cost so much.

    The Impromptu Anchor

    I've seen lots of different kinds of homemade anchors over the years... pipes with one end welded shut and filled with plumbers lead, gallon milk jugs filled with concrete, to well-engineered collapsible square anchors that will hold a barge. I have some of my own that I keep for posterity. They all have one thing in common... they're heavy and hard to use.

    Next, we'll visit the methods of anchoring a small craft in various environments and weather/current conditions.

    Safety is the prime concern for anchoring in rivers. There are several specific dangers that can turn your fishing trip into a nightmare for the unwary or the unprepared.

    The following was provided by the US Army Corps of Engineers as a public safety announcement for the Columbia River, but the information contained in it is applicable to all rivers.

    Anchor safely
    in the Columbia River
    or any swift water area

    Swift currents, high flows and cold water make the following procedures imperative.

    1. Use anchor lines that are 5-7 times the depth of the water. River depth may exceed 100 feet in some places. Use a float for the anchor line to serve as a buffer and to reduce the risk of getting the anchor line tangled in the propeller.

    Lower, do not throw, the anchor to avoid tangles in the line

    Anchor only off the point of the bow. Anchoring off the stern or the side will capsize your boat.

    2. Power upstream of anchor before retrieving it. Maintain position in line with flow of the current while retrieving anchor. Turning cross-wise to the current increases the risk of capsizing.

    3. The Columbia River can become turbulent with little or no warning. You are advised to wear a Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (PFD) at all times. Also, take precautions against hypothermia. River temperatures can range from 70 degrees in the summer to near freezing during the winter.

    4. River users are reminded that although it is legal to anchor in the channel, it is illegal to block the right-of-way of a vessel that is restricted to using the channel.

    5. Five blasts of a horn signify danger and you must take action to avoid that danger.

    Remember... SAFETY FIRST
    Never anchor from the stern of the boat​

    Your boat may capsize or swamp before the situation can be corrected!

    Anyone on my boat will find two Danforth type anchors with sliding links, equipped with six feet of chain and 250 feet of anchor line each. 250 feet of anchor line will allow anchorage in rough water or current of 35 feet depth at a 7:1 ratio scope. Less depth or current/wind conditions will allow the use of less anchor line and reduced scope.

    The bitter end of one line is attached to the cleat on the starboard side bow with the line piled up in the forward locker with the anchor stowed on top of it. The second anchor is similarly on the port side bow with the bitter end tied to a forward port cleat and the line piled in the port locker. Conversely, either side anchor line can be piled in a bucket with the anchor on top of it, ready to be deployed at a moment's notice. By leaving the bitter end of the line tied to the cleat, the anchor can be deployed in an emergency situation without tending the line and without loss of the anchor.

    I do not coil my anchor lines because the action of coiling it will cause it to tangle when the line is being paid out. The line is simply piled up at random and not disturbed until it is paid out off the top of the pile. It sounds too simple to work, but it does. Try it.

    Controlling boat swing at anchor

    In order to control the swing of the boat, there are several methods that can be deployed. The Ancient Phoenicians devised a method by which they could anchor and fish in three totally different areas without moving the anchor. The method is simple and quite useful to today's modern fisherman, but only works where there is a current or a wind.

    Allow the entire anchor line to be paid out with the bitter end secured to the bow of the boat, placing the boat over the center of the desired fishing area. To fish to the left of the central area, tie a line to the anchor line at least half the length of the boat away from the bow. Run the line in the water to the starboard stern cleat of the boat and begin tightening the line until the boat's stern moves out of line with the anchor line. The distance that the boat drifts to the left depends on the current or wind pressure and the angle created by the second line. When the angle and the distance of the drift are satisfactory, simply tie the line off to the stern cleat.

    If you wish to fish to the right of the central fishing area, retie the line to the port cleat near the stern. Safety is the key, as always. If the wind or current is too strong, there is a danger of swamping or capsizing the boat.
    Always keep a sharp knife handy to cut the line in case of a problem.

    Using 2 Anchors to Control Swing

    Approach the anchorage area at right angles to the current/wind and drop the first anchor from the bow. Continue in the same direction slowly, paying out the line to the desired scope, taking care not to run over the anchor line and foul the prop. When the desired scope is placed, tie the line off to a forward cleat on that side of the boat and back the boat down with the engine to set the anchor. Immediately drop the second anchor and shift the engine to neutral, allowing the boat to settle naturally in the current. When the proper scope is paid out for the second anchor, seize it off to the corresponding cleat on the forward part of the bow, but not directly to the point of the bow. When you are sure of the anchorage, you may shut off the engine. As the boat set tles, it will only swing in an arc allowed by the length of scope of both anchors. The angle of the anchor lines should form between 30 and 45degrees for maximum holding power.

    Another method allows deployment of an anchor directly from the bow and a sea (drift) anchor from the stern.


    Approach the desired area and gently place the anchor over the side to avoid splashing and fouling the anchor. Splashing the anchor is the sure sign of a rank amateur, and will spook the fish.

    Allow the wind or current to drift the boat with the stern downstream or downwind naturally until the desired scope is paid out. Secure the bow line to the bow cleat with a double figure eight and a half hitch. Tie the sea anchor to a stern cleat and deploy. As the water fills the sea anchor, it will be increasingly difficult to tie off the sea anchor, so be sure to tie it off first. The pressure on the sea anchor will hold the boat more or less straight downstream.

    In the shallow water that I prefer to fish, I often use a tree or stump to tie the bow line to, and another to tie the stern line to. By using the trolling motor, the boat can be quietly maneuvered into position and tied between the stumps to reduce or even eliminate swinging.

    We wish you good fishing and following seas...

    Refer to the following web pages for more and better explanations.